Can You Steam Polyester or Velvet?

Don't do that dress wrong, or you may not be able to wear it again.

Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Knowing how to keep your garments looking fresh is the best way to keep your closet full of fabulous pieces. The wrong method causes your best garments look old at best and ruined at worst. After all, no one expects good things from silk thrown in the washing machine. If you've have polyester or velvet to take care of, decide whether steam cleaning is the best way to go before you hand over your garments.

Steam Cleaning

Even though steam isn't as watery as, say, bottled water, it can still do a number on some clothes. Steam cleaning works great on fabrics that are made to withstand moisture. It uses super-high temperatures and blasts of hot, wet air to coax stains out and remove them completely. The best place to get clothes steam cleaned is at the dry cleaners. Ask the cleaner to steam your outfit; it should remove stubborn wrinkles, too.


Polyester is a durable fiber. It stands up well to steam cleaning in most cases. Steam removes almost every wrinkle from a purely polyester garment. The red flag comes out when the polyester is blended with something else -- especially something like silk. In that case, you probably want to keep it away from steam-cleaning methods.


Velvet is a little more complicated. Some velvets -- such as crushed velvet -- are ruined when you use water to clean or smooth them. They stiffen and the fibers are smashed. Other velvets do great with steam cleaning, though. The best way to tell is to check the label. If you're still not sure, speak to a dry cleaner about whether you should use steam cleaning.


No matter how you decide to clean or remove wrinkles from your clothes, spot test the method on a part of the garment that won't show with regular wear. If it looks good, then go ahead and use that method with the rest of the garment. Use a light hand when steam cleaning your garments at home. For any clothing you absolutely, positively can't stand to have destroyed, go with dry cleaning. It's the safest method of clothing upkeep around.

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